A sweet surprise from Chickasaw Nation

I’ve said it before—the biggest reason I love working in this industry? The hospitality. This week we were treated to one sweet surprise—an incredible selection of Bedré Fine Chocolates courtesy of Micha Krodel of Chickasaw Nation out of Oklahoma.

Milk Chocolate Oklahoma, Cowboy Boot & Hat
Milk Chocolate Oklahoma, Cowboy Boot & Hat

If the Chickasaw Nation wasn’t on your travel list, it should be. They have some spectacular offerings in store for their guests. From the breathtaking landscapes of their rec areas to a rich cultural center, opportunities to explore are limitless. Visitors can also relax in luxury at the Artesian Hotel, unwind at the Chickasaw Retreat spa, or even enjoy top-notch gaming at the WinStar World Casino and Resort.

Bedré is something really special, too. This small chocolatier was brought to life by the rich legacy of the Chickasaw Nation. Purchased in 2000, they’ve completely transformed it into a nationally recognized luxury chocolate brand. These sweets are offered in retail stores across the country, including The Artesian Hotel and Bedré Café.

(And our whole team can attest to the chocolate—we snagged a few pics prior to the devouring!)


We had just a taste, and it was enough for us to start planning our next trip to Oklahoma. Be sure to have a look for yourself!

Flip.to on the road: Worldhotels Annual Conference

I spent the last week in Hamburg with a wonderfully diverse group of hoteliers and industry folks from just about everywhere in the world. From a trendy, forward-thinking boutique in Sweden that will come and read you a bedtime story in Swedish to help you get settled in at night, to a designer, eco-conscious hotel on one of Berlin’s most traveled thoroughfares that prides itself on keeping walls to a minimum, there were definitely some standouts in the crowd.

What they had in common though, was that they all represented something bigger than the sum of their parts, which is exactly what brought them together in Hamburg for the Worldhotels Annual Conference.

Worldhotel Conference dinner
Worldhotels Annual Conference wrapped up with an outstanding dinner

This year’s theme was focused on storytelling, and how hotels discover and share their “why” with prospective guests. There couldn’t have been a better group to undertake this exercise given the sheer diversity of the attendees, a credit to Worldhotels for assembling such a collection of properties.

Worldhotels’ CEO, Kris Intress, has done a superb job in making it the focus of the organization to tell the story of its partner hotels in a way that truly engages with their guests on an emotional level. Her opening presentation for the conference made it clear that it’s not just a corporate directive, it’s how she truly feels. With drive like that, it’s hard not to get behind the concept, and that goal was definitely met in Hamburg.

There were two things that I took away from the conference (not including this really cool virtual reality cardboard kit from Diginet Media; seriously it’s awesome).

“If you’re an independent hotel and you’re not playing the game by a different set of rules, you’re going to have a hard time.” – Richard Dunbar

The first is that if you’re an independent hotel and you’re not playing the game by a different set of rules, you’re going to have a hard time. I have a great deal of respect for hotel owners and operators because it’s a fierce space to play in. You have a huge job just in delivering on the experience the guest expects but there are also so many distractions, all vying for your attention.

The hardest part of all of this is that most of those distractions need your attention or they can become tomorrow’s problems. Worldhotels does a great job managing a lot of those distractions for hotels, (disclaimer: hoteliers’ words, not mine) but it’s incumbent upon hotels to have a firm grasp on why they do what they do. It’s one thing to point out what makes you unique, but how did you arrive there? What brought you to where you are today? That’s a much more challenging question to answer and it requires a different perspective to fully understand it.

“Let your guests help you discover your ‘why.'” – Richard Dunbar

The other big takeaway for me is that hotels are hungry for a better way to do social. Now I know, that may sound self-serving, but there were over a hundred hoteliers that attended our sessions on capturing guest stories and infusing those into the hotel’s brand identity. The message was a very simple one: let your guests help you discover your “why.”

We have this amazing vehicle for communication (social media) but it’s become congested with marketing pollution and a lot of noisy nonsense. The truth is that hotel guests have been telling their stories but hotels haven’t been listening. In all fairness, some do listen quite well and they’ve been extraordinarily successful because of it. But there are countless hotel websites out there showcasing empty rooms and public spaces, embracing this notion of the zombie apocalypse our esteemed president raised in his recent “state of the industry” address.

For the longest time social in this industry has been a one-sided conversation. Sure, guests are talking on TripAdvisor but that’s very formulaic and can hardly be considered a conversation. The stories are being told at home, to friends and to family. Those stories that make their way into the online social media space sit on the shelf of our limited attention spans and are soon forgotten. There’s no engagement and there’s no dialogue happening. When meaningful and inspirational adventures are happening everyday in and around hotels those events should be captured and sharing should be encouraged!

Attendees enjoyed an Octoberfest dinner on Friday

In the end, all of the ingredients were there, hotels just needed the recipe. Kris, Geoff, Tom, Alex, and all the others at Worldhotels have worked tirelessly to bring it all together and present it in such a way that hotels are well equipped to start their journey. I was proud to be welcomed into this group and to present our solution to this challenge. Because ultimately it’s about building a long-term, meaningful relationship with the guest. And if there’s one key ingredient to a healthy relationship, it’s listening.

State of the industry: hotel marketing

Hotel marketing has become a bit strange the past few years. Somehow, a very social and aspirational industry has become devoid of personality. In fact, when we look at most hotel marketing, it feels like the images chosen must have been taken moments after the zombie apocalypse—beautifully set up rooms and spaces missing one important thing: humans.

The result? Guests feel like they’re dealing with faceless, corporate behemoths instead of properties with true personality and an amazing staff that are passionate about hospitality. Here lies the exact reason that 3rd parties and companies like AirBnB have become so popular—they’ve made travel personal and aspirational again.

The good news is hotels have an answer to correct these issues and shift more towards aspirational marketing:


Quote from Rudyard Kipling on stories
Rudyard Kipling, 1888

The power of storytelling is not a new idea by any means. In a world of 140 characters though, authentic stories are becoming more and more scarce. A favorite quote of mine from Rudyard Kipling says, “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” He wrote that in 1888.

Stories captivate an audience far better than facts or bullet points. But how does this apply to hotels?

Guest photo from The Shores Daytona
A guest story creates a more authentic experience for The Shores

Collectively, your guests capture the widest range of experiences and provide the most candid insights into your hotel. Every booking is the beginning of a new, compelling guest story to share. When hotels capture these moments, they unveil new brand stories that bring out the personality and genuine experiences at their property, and truly appeal to new guests.

This is where hotels have the edge. You actually own the experience, and are the hub of your guests’ journey. Make the stories of that journey part of your own, and use them to enrich all of your marketing efforts.

How to put storytelling to work for your hotel.

This is a topic that we live and breathe at Flip.to on a daily basis. We’ve built a platform that lets guests share their travel stories with friends & family along with your hotel. You’ll captivate & inspire an entire new audience of global travelers like never before. And we do this by tapping into a simple idea—that everyone trusts their friends more than ads, especially when it comes to travel.

When your guests return home and share their favorite moments, their stories reach a like-minded demographic with a personal introduction to your hotel. Can you imagine the impact of an ever-growing team of storytellers at your fingertips?

Guest photo submission from Flip.to

Being able to turn guests into advocates and then into co-creators leads to the highest brand affinity. And the impact of that doesn’t stop there.

Blend guest stories consistently throughout your marketing and communications. Use them to replace spam content that is irrelevant to your audience, hurts credibility, and can even erode your brand.

When crafting your digital experience, remember that not every visitor to your site is ready to book. Most hotels don’t really account for this at all and in fact, is where most hotels can win- at the inspiration phase of the traveler’s buying journey.

Inspire travelers to visit before they’ve even begun the planning process. You’re no longer competing with the noise (and ad spend) in the marketplace that are fighting for users ready to click ‘Book Now.’

So, what’s the way to inspire future travelers? Real, authentic guest stories.

Don’t just take our word for it.

Quote on making customers partners
What Apple, Lending Club, and AirBnB Know About Collaborating with Customers, Harvard Business Review

We’re not the only ones that see the real value in guest stories. We’ve previously touched on a great article from Harvard Business Review on ‘What Apple, Lending Club and AirBnb know about collaborating with customers,’ which clearly ties revenue and profit margin growth directly to tapping customers to become co-creators.

76% of travelers were willing to pay more for a hotel with higher review scores
Study Shows Travelers Willing to Pay More for Hotels With Better Travel Reviews, TrustYou

Another article a bit closer to home is this great study by Trust You showing that the majority of travelers are willing to pay more for a hotel with higher review scores. So what is a review anyways? Most of the ones I have seen are long form stories, in many cases too long.

And of course, TripAdvisor and a host of other review sites have all proven it.

Hotels of the world: it’s time to start to put storytelling into action.

What has your hotel’s approach been to use aspirational selling? Let me know! Your insights guide us to continue to create great content that makes a difference in your day-to-day. Reach out, or discover more.

Introducing: Photo Explorer (our first video!)

The need to make videos has become more apparent as our team and company continue to grow. Video will complement how we communicate our product, culture, and vision to the world. It’s a completely new arena for us, and I’m awfully excited that we’ve just jumped in.

We closely collaborated with our account team to better understand our customers’ needs, and narrowed in on what topics were right for us to get started. Of course, producing high-quality videos fast is crucial for a small startup team. After some help from The Startup Video Course, we were up and running in a couple of days.

In the end, here is what we made:


Be on the lookout for a ton more in this arena, from product updates, ideas and of course a bit of fun.

Also, word around the office is that a few other employees want to try their hand at voiceovers, so expect to see a few auditions, and possibly some bloopers along the way.

Take a tourorWatch next video

Advocacy behind the scenes: Nick Hotel

Advocacy has changed the game for how hotels develop and communicate their story to the world. But what does it look like to incorporate advocacy into your hotel’s day-to-day?

We connected with Deanna Padilla, Marketing Manager at Nickelodeon Suites Resort, to shed some light on this question—here’s what she had to say.

Nick Hotel on Branding

Michael Mathews: We can tell branding is important to your digital strategy. How important was it that Flip.to could be seamlessly incorporated into your current site?

The Flip.to Homepage Component is designed to fit into Nick Hotel’s current branding

Deanna Padilla: Our brand is important to us and our consumers, so being able to easily incorporate Flip.to into our current site matching our brand standards is very important.

MM: Could you talk about some of the branding examples that were incorporated between your brand and Flip.to’s platform (Homepage Component, emails, and certificates)? What has the value of the branded Flip.to integrations meant for Nick Hotel and your guests?

DP: Flip.to incorporated our brand colors within the homepage component and our hotel logo in the emails and certificates. This is a valuable detail to be able to incorporate the Nickelodeon brand with all of these initiatives. Plus, this also builds brand loyalty and engagement with the consumer.

Branding is consistent in guests’ certificates

MM: What advice would you give to other hotels when it comes to branding and messaging?

DP: Make sure your branding and messaging match, this makes your product more valuable, especially to your loyal customers. Branding truly builds advocates.

MM: How would you describe working with the Flip.to team to incorporate these changes?

DP: Flip.to has been a great partner to work with. The team was there step-by-step in getting photo advocacy up and running. It was a seamless process.

On the New Photo Explorer from Flip.to

MM: Nick Hotel recently launched one of the newest features of Filp.to, Photo Explorer. How would you describe using this piece of the platform (from set up and curation, to making changes)?

Flip.to photo curation makes it easy to rate and share submissions

DP: The setup piece was easy to complete. Flip.to provided the necessary instructions for me to provide to our partners to update on their end on our behalf. Curation of guest photos is a simple and fun step, especially being able to see the property through the guests’ eyes.

MM: How much time out of your day do you spend on the platform?

DP: I spend about 10–15 minutes each day on the platform curating and sharing great photos on social media.

MM: How user friendly is the platform? What’s been your favorite aspect so far?

DP: The platform is extremely user friendly. A few touches, and you can share on your individual social media platforms.

Being able to share these experiences from the guests’ own personal photos on social has been a favorite of mine.

MM: Has there been anything that surprised you that you learned from the platform?

DP: Just how easy it is to manage, and also share on the hotel’s social media platforms. It’s a quick and easy process making posting more of a fun item than another work task.

MM: How has Photo Explorer helped in your overall marketing strategy?

Nick Hotel shares a submission on Twitter.
Nick Hotel shares a submission on Twitter.

DP: Photo explorer has increased our fan base on social media and will hopefully drive them to our website and lead to direct bookings.

On Advocacy

MM: How has Flip.to changed your day-to-day?

DP: Flip.to has added a nice addition to my day-to-day work tasks. I enjoy reading the guest comments and looking at the guest photos every day.

MM: What drove Nick Hotel to get started with Flip.to, and using advocacy as part of your marketing?

Photo Explorer displays guests’ stories and experiences

DP: The opportunity for social sharing among our guests and their friends and their friends’ friends was a huge factor in deciding to participate in photo advocacy.

MM: What have you found most beneficial when making advocacy a core component of your revenue and marketing strategy?

DP: Definitely the number of sign-ups we have received from photo advocacy alone is outstanding. This has increased engagement on our social sites.

MM: What advice would you give other hotels who want to get started with advocacy?

DP: If you are looking to increase your social awareness and reach new audiences while building your relationship with existing fans, then photo advocacy is a must for your property.

Incorporating advocacy into your hotel’s long-term strategy will set your hotel up for success.

For Nickelodeon Suites Resort, integration was a snap. New features like Photo Explorer engage users with personalized interactions that are built in, so they have the right conversation with every viewer. Plus, a streamlined process and a bit of fun have been carried over into Deanna’s day-to-day tasks, making curation and sharing a breeze.

We love hearing incredible stories from our clients, so get in touch and let’s collaborate to feature your hotel in our next behind the scenes post.